Woodcarving includes any kind of wood sculpture. This is from the decorative bas-relief on small objects to life-size figures in the round, furniture, and architectural decorations.
The wood used to create wood sculpture art vary greatly in hardness and grain. The most common woods used include: boxwood, pine, pear, walnut, willow, oak, and ebony. The tools most commonly used are simple gouges, chisels, wooden mallets, and pointed instruments. Although wood sculpture art are one of the earliest art media, woodcarvings have withstood poorly the elements of time and climate. Some ancient examples have been preserved in the dry climate of Egypt.
The carving of wood sculpture masks and statuettes was common to the African tribes and totem poles were used for the basic religious rites of the tribes of the Northwest Coast of America.
The North African Muslim countries abound in intricate architectural carvings.
European countries such as Scandinavia were highly developed in woodcarving, and examples have been preserved of 10th- and 11th-century work. During the Gothic period in England, they produced extremely fine carving, especially on choir stalls and rood screens. Although the Puritans ruined much of wood sculpture art, enough has been preserved to show its beautiful workmanship. In In France, woodcarving was a part of religious art, and the carved altarpieces were especially notable. Italian woodcarving did well during the Gothic period in Pisa, Siena, and Florence. During the Renaissance, woodcarvings and wood sculpture art remained an adjunct of Italian artistic development.
A large number of the 15th- and 16th-century artists in Germany worked in wood, creating monumental wood sculpture art and altarpieces. The greatest known was Hans Multscher, Michael Pacher, Veit Stoss, and Tilman Riemenschneider. At the of the Renaissance, woodcarving went into a slight decline. It had a revival in the early 18th century. At this time, Grinling Gibbons in London carved for Sir Christopher Wren’s buildings. In colonial Americ,a fine ships’ figureheads and many other great pieces, now considered important folk art, were executed in wood.
The 20th cent. has seen a resurgence of interest in the medium of wood to create wood sculpture art. Wood sculpture art has also held a fascination for some abstract artists, notably Louise Nevelson who created large, intricate sculptural compositions of carved and turned wood forms.
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